La Cava Campus Center BACKGROUND PAPER AND TOPIC SUMMARY
Conflict in Chechnya
At the end of the Cold War most Americans never heard of the Russian republic of Chechnya and even most Russians couldn’t find it on the map. However, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia realized that an indigenous people of the Northern Caucasus Mountains were not interested in being part of the country ensuing in a bloody civil war. What was once an internal affair between a small ethnic group in Russia and the Russian government, the conflict in Chechnya has appeared on the top list of numerous international organizations’ agenda. The recent allegations of human rights abuse, the ever increasing danger of foreigners in the area, and the alleged Chechen link to terrorism have placed the conflict of Chechnya at the fore front of the international arena.
The recent unrest in Chechnya is not unique for the Chechen people. The Chechens, native to the Caucasus, were conquered by Russia in the late nineteenth century after a bitter bloody struggle. During the Russian Revolution, the Chechens declared their independence but were later recaptured by the Bolsheviks who created the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Only a few decades later, at the end of World War II, Russia under the leadership of Joseph Stalin deported the entire Chechen population to Siberia in fear of the Chechens siding with the fascists. None were allowed to come back for a decade.1
Under the leadership of Gorbachev, the policy of glasnost’ (openness) renewed unrest in the area. After a long struggle between Chechen groups, Jokhar Dudayev won ninety percent of the vote in the October 1991 elections. Russia and other Chechen groups contested the vote and in November 1991, the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin declared a state of emergency in Chechnya and sent troops into the area. However Dudayev declared martial law and mobilized the national guard. The Russian army refused to support Yeltsin and the troops left Chechnya. Dudayev wanted complete independence from Russia and refused to sign the March 1992 agreement which would’ve granted substantial autonomy to the area.2
Under much pressure from the Chechens, thousands of ethnic Russians fled the area and a stalemate followed. In 1994 a civil war broke out between Dudayev and the Provisional Chechen council backed by the Russian government. Over 40,000 Russian troops invaded Chechnya and it took them a year (December 1994—December 1995) to conquer Groznyy, the capital of Chechnya. By the time Russia secured the city, Groznyy was completely destroyed. Russia continued bombing Chechen strongholds while installing a “government of national revival.” Russia and Chechnya signed the peace accord in July 1995 which collapsed several months later. The Russian government appointed a leader of Chechnya, in December 1995. He signed an autonomy deal with Russia, but the Chechen rebels rejected the deal and invaded Groznyy in March 1996. Russia was able to broker a peace deal in August 1996 postponing the Chechen final status to 2001. Many looked forward to establishing stability after much bloodshed. the casualties numbered between 60,000 and 100,000. However the Chechen president, Aslan Maskhadov was not able to maintain peace and lawlessness continued.3
In September 1999 Chechen rebels were allegedly responsible for a serious of bombs targeting Moscow apartments that killed two hundred people. Vladimir Putin, at the time the prime minister of Russia, ordered troops back into Chechnya. After a week of heavy bombings, Russian troops re-entered Chechnya. It wasn’t until February 2000, after much bloodshed Russian troops were able to enter Groznyy. The conflict continued until finally in March 2003, Chechnya agreed to give up its claim to independence and approved a regional constitution making Chechnya a separatist republic in Russia.4
The following fall Chechnya held elections under tight security. Chechen administrative chief and acting president Akhmad Kadyrov won over 80% of the vote with an 85% turn out. However Kadyrov’s opponent, millionaire businessman, Malik Saidullayev who disqualified from the race in September has said that the Russian government used “dirty methods” to secure the election, such as threatened workers at factories with loss of jobs unless they voted for Kadyrov. He suggested the election was based on lies and the ballot boxed were stuffed before the election. Nevertheless Russia hopes the votes will legitimize local autonomy. Kadyrov is a former Muslim religious leader and rebel who fought against Russia in the first Civil War. Four years ago he changed sides and became Kremlin’s Chechen administrator. Critics have accused him of corruption and intimidation.5 Human Rights Abuses
During the Chechen conflict especially during the second war in Chechnya several events occurred that placed Chechnya out of the internal problem of Russia into an international affair. In 2000, the United Nations asked for an investigation for human rights abuses, Putin complied but continued the war.6 The Human Rights Watch Briefing paper on the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights held on April 7, 2003 reported on abuses by the Russians as well as the Chechens and the reluctance of the Russian government to stop the problem. Human Rights Watch reported that Russian troops caused twenty six people between December 2002 and February 2003 to “disappear,” which is roughly three people per week. With more than fifty documented interviews, Chechen people have reported the Russian troops of extrajudicial execution, torture, ill-treatment, and arbitrary detention. Although the Russian government has tried to blame many accusations on the Chechen rebels, there is great evidence to suggest that the Russian troops are behind the problem. Many reported men wearing masks attacking unsuspected Chechen homes in the middle of the night taking one or more inhabitants with them. Most witnesses report the men speaking unaccented Russian (as opposed to the local dialect) and arriving in armored personal carriers owned by the Russian troops, suggesting that the raids were carried out by Russian forces. Most of the kidnapped men were never returned but some corpses have been found. Russian forces have been blowing up the bodies of executed Chechens, a crude ploy and a blatant human rights violation. Torture has also been prevalent in unofficial places of detention immune from international scrutiny. The Russian government continues its failure to properly investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and instead has wanted to limit the information coming from Chechnya. It has denied Human Rights Watch to come into the area for the tenth time since 1999. It also has refused to arrange visits to the region by several UN special mechanisms. Moreover the Russian government has harassed several Chechen human rights advocates, one of whom later “disappeared.”7
The issue brief for the 60th Session of UN Commission on Human Rights reported a lack of accountability for crimes made by Russian military. Russia resists establishing meaningful accountability for crimes committed by its forces. Many investigations remained unsolved and simple tasks such as talking to victims and interviewing eyewitnesses is often not done. Yuri Budanov, the only high ranking officer tried for abuses related to Chechnya was found guilty for murdering a Chechen woman and sentenced to ten years in prison. The trial shows that Russia is capable of bringing justice to the area and currently is just not doing so.8
Chechens have also been blamed for human rights violations mainly for numerous terrorist attacks and tactics. In October 2002 fifty gunned Chechens held the Moscow theater hostage. One hundred twenty nine people died in the incident mainly due to the deadly gas used by Russian Special Forces to rescue the hostages. In December 2002 Chechen rebels blew up the main government building in Groznyy, killing seventy two and wounding two hundred ten. Since 2003 over two hundred people died in terrorist attacks including bombing of commuter trains in southern Russia, blasts at a rock concert, and bombing outside a luxury hotel opposite of Kremlin.9 The most recent attack was in February 2004 when a suicide bomber blew up the subway killing 39 commuters. Due to the train’s driver who slammed on the brakes and contacted engineers to shut off the power, 500 people safely escaped. Putin blamed Maskhadov for the incident, denouncing European authorities who were planning to negotiate with the former Chechen president. However Maskhadov’s representatives denied the allegation.10
Increasingly the suicide bombers have been women, dubbed the ‘black widows’ by the Russian media, females who want to seek revenge against people who killed their fathers, husbands, and brothers. The senior advisor on Chechnya to Putin, Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky, paints a different picture of the female suicide bomber. He suggests that Chechen rebels drug young women and rape them, preventing them from ever returning to a normal life in Chechnya, leaving the women one choice—to become suicide bombers. Regardless of the motives the women have, Chechen women can move more freely across the country than Chechen men, making them an easy target for extremists recruitment.11
The September 11th attack on US and the subsequent War on Terrorism declared by Bush, has made Chechen rebels one more terrorist problem. Then again, recent news has suggested that lawlessness and terrorist attacks are subsiding. On March 26, 2004 the ITAR-TASS news agency reported that terrorist attacks in Chechnya were down in 2003 compared to 2002 by thirty percent. Since 2000 Interior Troops losses have been decreasing by forty percent each year and the efficiency of the Interior Troops to ensure law and order has increased between fifty and one hundred percent.12 Humanitarian Crisis
After much unrest in the area and lawlessness by both Russian and Chechen forces, the people of Chechnya have been in dire need of humanitarian aide. ECHO, the European Commission Humanitarian Office, has been involved in Chechnya since the end of 1994 and was the first to support international organizations to provide humanitarian aide into the area. The main area of concern in Chechnya started in the beginning of fall of 1999 when Putin ordered to re-enter the republic. The Chechen population was forced to leave its homes and many were displaced inside of Chechnya as well as the neighboring Republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan. There are estimated 150,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Chechnya, 64,000 in Ingushetia, and 5,000 in Dagestan. Chechens live with relatives, host families, or tented camps. Since October 1999, ECHO allocated more than 93 million euros to both Chechnya and the Republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan. In 2002 the European Commission allocated 28 million euro to support victims of the conflict in Chechnya. The funding supports food aid, medical assistance, temporary shelter, water, sanitation facilities, psychosocial support, primary education, and protection of IDPs. ECHO is funding the Danish Refugee Council to undertake the household economy surveys in several Chechen districts to improve assistance to the most vulnerable.13
IDPs—Internally Displaced Persons
The Russian administration has tried to move IDPs from Ingushetia to the Chechen Republic since 2000. The situation became tense when in 2002 the administrated tried to force IDPs to move to the Chechen republic without providing them housing. Through the effort of the general public forced resettlement stopped. However camps in Ingushetia have been closing. In 2003 the Bella and Alina camps were closed and those who wished to remain in Ingushetia moved to the Satsita camp. IDPs that moved to Chechnya were promised compensation on priority bases for housing in the Chechen Republic.14 IDPs are concerned that even if they do receive compensation, the money would be stolen or a third to a half of it would go to bribes.15 The list of people that are supposed to receive compensation is troublesome. There have been accounts of people not included on the list because they were out of IDP camps at the time the check occurred. For example a woman reported that she was not placed on the list because at the time the check occurred she was out grocery shopping. Also people whose homes were not completely destroyed cannot get on the list to receive compensation. Migration services estimate that there are 48500 IDPs living in Ingushetia, 3800 of which live in tent camps. Thirty thousand IDPs live in 20 PTAs (Placement of Temporary Accommodation) in Chechnya, with only 75 vacant rooms left. In Groznyy, 120 ‘flood-houses’ are almost complete which will accommodate 800 more people. ‘Flood-houses’ are temporary shelters for flood victims which are now used to house IDPs. Neither the ‘flood-houses’ nor the PTAs are enough to even house IDPs living in tent camps. Once IDPs receive compensation they have to leave PTAs and rebuild their own homes on their own. About 1500 people have already received compensation. However the compensation is only a small sum not enough to buy or rebuild a home. The compensation might be enough to afford an apartment but there are no apartments for sale currently.16
NGOs estimate that the number of IDPs is 1.5 times greater than the migration services estimations, pointing out that the need for housing is graver than officials report. The commission also found that children born in tent camps in Ingushetia are not considered IDPs by the officials and are not counted in the estimates. Even with housing available in Chechnya for IDPs, the problems are numerous. Many PTAs have no water supply or sewage, with no dedicated space for washing and laundering. Some IDPs living in tent camps want to remain in Ingushetia. Migration services believe that it would be impossible to house all IDPs in Ingushetia especially as there are only 25 rooms available in compact settlements. However Doctors without Borders built about 180 small houses in the republic which migration services deemed unsuitable for living without any visible reasons. The commission found IDPs living in PTAs in Chechnya that are not very suitable for living and seemingly proper PTAs in Ingushetia completely vacant.17
After a lengthy study of the IDPs in Chechnya and the surrounding area, the Human Rights Commission of the President of the Russian Federation, that has been monitoring the situation in Chechnya since 2002, concluded in February 2004 that it was premature to invite internally displaced people back to the Chechen Republican. The commission made five recommendations in dealing with the IDPs.18
Housing should be prepared for people who want to voluntarily return to Chechnya.
IDPs should be able to settle in other parts of the Russian Federation and receive relevant information of potential places of residence available as well as housing and jobs in those areas.
Federal subjects should restore schools, hospitals, and libraries in Chechen Republic and supply them with everything needed.
Payment of compensation to IDPs should be sped up by putting destroyed housing onto lists without their inspection.
Measures should be taken by federal and republic agencies to ensure rigorous investigation into all cases of illegal detainment and abduction in the Chechen Republic.
Although IDPs are in great need for humanitarian aide, international aide workers have found numerous difficulties working in Chechnya. ECHO has supported international NGOs and agencies with security concerns since 1999 through UNSECOORD, the UN agency specializing in security. However, in 2002 several kidnappings of international aide workers have made it a struggle to work in the area. Arjan Erkel, head of Mission of ECHO and implemented partner of MSF-Switzerland (Doctors without Borders) was abducted in Dagestan on August 12th, 2002. His disappearance led to an immediate and indefinite suspension of all MSF’s activities in Chechnya and Dagestan. Nina Davidovich, Head of Druzhba (UNICEF partner) was abducted in July 2002 and released in January 2003.19 In December 2003, MSF received information that Arjan Erkel was sick and at risk of execution.20 Doctors without Borders accused the Russian government with the involvement in the kidnapping of Arjan Erkel, citing an unnamed individual in the Dagestan parliament responsible.21 Also the UN Commissioner of Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, in a press release in March 2003, appealed to those who can assist to act obediently to obtain Erkel, recalling the Resolution 1502 on the safety and security of humanitarian workers.22 In April 2004 Erkel was finally released and according to the MSF’s Moscow spokesman, Mark Walsh, the kidnappers were not paid a ransom.23
For people who are willing to take the risk of working in the area, there has been difficulty in accessing Chechnya. Also, there has been an ongoing denial to NGOs of access to UN-sponsored VHF radio network which is vital for security. The European Union has yet to achieve more appropriate operating conditions.24
The issue brief to the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights on Chechnya discussed the numerous human rights abuses and humanitarian crises in Chechnya. Despite the October elections in Chechnya, the situation is very tense and lawlessness continues. Disappearances are the trademark of the conflict with the frequency of them sharply rising in 2003. Human rights abuses continue to go undocumented and the applicants to the European Court of Human Rights are often harassed. The Russian government continues to put pressure on IDPs to return to Chechnya from Ingushetia.25 On May 5, 2004 Chechnya-Free news agency reported to the Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Russian Federation that Satsita camp will be dismantled in the second week of May 2004. The 1500 people living in 300 tents (about 390 families) in Satsita camp, upon return to Chechnya will receive material assistance 1000 rubles per person and a 12 months supply of food rations.26
Moreover Russia has not complied with UN resolutions calling for deployment of UN thematic mechanisms except for the Representative of Secretary-General on children in armed conflict and IDPs. Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial summary and arbitrary executions have been seeking access to Chechnya for years. Russia did agree to a visit from the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, but canceled several meetings, citing safety concerns.27
Unlike 2002, in 2003 no international monitors worked in Chechnya and the surrounding region. Also Russian military periodically prevented access to journalist and human rights activists to the remaining tent camps in Ingushetia.28 MSF pulled out of the region after Erkel’s kidnapping in 200029 and the Council of Europe’s experts left Chechnya after a bomb on the convoy in 2002. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had to leave on January 1, 2003 as both sides could not reach an agreement to extend the mandate. OSCE originally entered the area in 1995 providing humanitarian aide to the region and also dealt with ‘political normalization.’ The Russian government feels that the OSCE no longer needs to deal with ‘political normalization’ as peaceful life is returning to Chechnya. During the two month negotiations the Foreign Ministry in Russia urged OSCE to focus on supplying humanitarian aide to people and providing accommodations to displaced people. An agreement could not be reached as OSCE refused to relinquish its human rights and political dimensions. Human rights organizations disagree with the Russian government’s view of peaceful life returning to Chechnya and believe that violence is still very prevalent Chechnya.30
Human Rights Watch recommendations to the UN Commission on Human Rights are:31
Condemn ongoing violations of human rights and humanitarian law by both parties to the conflict
Insist on accountability
Call on Russia to desist from coerced returns of IDPs to ensure their well being
Call on Russia to invite key UN thematic mechanisms
Call for renewal of the OSCE Assistance Group’s mandate and cooperation with the Council of Europe
The Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal 2004 for Chechnya and its Neighboring Republics requested US $62 million dollars for UN agencies and NGOs. The agencies will help in providing relief and develop local civil groups and government infrastructures. The UN agencies and NGOs have three strategic goals—enhance protection and respect for legal and social human rights of civilian population; help society groups and local NGOs gain confidence and skills to contribute to society; and support and encourage government structures to work efficiently, especially in legal, health, and education spheres.32
Funding Requirements in 2004 (US$)
COORDINATION AND SUPPORT SERVICES
ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND INFRASTRUCTURE
FAMILY SHELTER AND NON-FOOD ITEMS
PROTECTION/HUMAN RIGHTS/RULE OF LAW
WATER AND SANITATION
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also remarked on the safety concerns of the UN agencies and NGOs by stating that 57 aid workers have been kidnapped and ten died in Chechnya since 1995.34 The violence in Russia still continues as Maskhadov, a warlord and former Chechen president and Basayev, considered man #2 in the Chechen separatist hierarchy, maintain their unlawfulness. Both Maskhadov and Basayev are known for their irascible behavior. On May 5th, 2004 Itar-Tass, the Russian news agency, reported that the security service of Chechen president Kadyrov, has been pursuing for a few days several dispersed groups of gunmen that are linked to Maskhadov in the districts of Kurchaloi and Nozhai-Yurt.35 The chief of security services, Ramzan Kadyrov said, "The time of talks and persuasions to return to peaceful life is over. There will be no talks or amnesties any more. Bandits and their underlings will be destroyed from now on."36
With rebels forces still active in the area, the conflict in Chechnya continues and will still attract international attention. UN agencies and NGOs have much work to bring basic relief, stability, and peace into the region. The Russian government although reluctant will hopefully under international pressure make more progress in enforcing accountability of crimes as well as cooperating with the UN. As the conflict is ongoing its unclear how willing and for how long Chechen separatists will be able to fight against the Russian government.
1 Guarding Special Report on Chechnya www.guardian.co.uk/chechnya
2 Guarding Special Report on Chechnya www.guardian.co.uk/chechnya
3 Guarding Special Report on Chechnya www.guardian.co.uk/chechnya
4 Guarding Special Report on Chechnya www.guardian.co.uk/chechnya
5 Kremlin man set for Chechen winwww.cnn.com/2003/WORLD
6 Guarding Special Report on Chechnya www.guardian.co.uk/chechnya
7 Issue brief to 59th Session of UN www.hrw.org
8 Issue brief to 60th Session of UN www.hrw.org
9 Issue brief to 59th Session of UN www.hrw.org
10 Quinn-Judge and Zarakhovich, Terror on Subway. Time. 16 Feb 2004
11 Myers, Stephen Lee. NY Times 7 Aug 2003
12 Terrorist Acts in Chechnya down by 30 percent. BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union. 26 March 2004